When Ryan Roche imagines the Canada Games experience, he pictures the big crowds, including plenty of scouts, watching every flick of the stick and stride of the skate.
Then he has to give his head a shake.
“It’s probably best to ignore all that and just play,” said the son of Corner Brook’s Scott and Lori.
This past week, the 15-year-old forward was named to the Newfoundland and Labrador U16 male hockey representative for the 2015 Canada Games in Prince George, B.C. in February.
A hockey player since the age of five — mainly because his dad was always heavily involved in the game — he has come to love the camaraderie of being on a team, particularly the road trips.
Whether he’s scoring goals or setting up goals, his time on the ice makes him happy. And it’s recently become quite rewarding as well.
He’s been a bantam provincial champion the past two seasons, the first of which stands out as his most memorable hockey moment to date.
“It was my first one,” he said. “It felt good to get the first one.”
That championship could pale in comparison to a big performance at the national level this February.
The process of making the team actually began two years ago, as he was selected as part of the team-in-training, so to speak. Kids of the same age group who would be eligible for the 2015 games have been skating together and playing together since.
There was still no guarantee of making the final cut this year, however. That involved attending two camps — one in St. John’s in April and then the main camp in Gander on Aug. 12.
Roche was the only player from the west coast there.
He thought he had a pretty good chance, but wasn’t sure of anything. He was in a car on the way home from St. Anthony, following a trip to pick up his sister, when his phone rang and he heard the news.
“A big smile went on my face,” he said of his reaction.
The team will embark on a trip to Prince Edward Island in October for a warm-up tournament and, Roche says, they’ll likely play a few exhibition games outside of that as well.
But nothing will truly prepare them for the grand stage that awaits, with full arenas and pressure-packed situations on the ice.
That experience, he said, is what he’s looking forward to the most.
“I just can’t wait to see what it’s like,” he said.